Ethical Implications of Using AI for Contract Review

AI and contract review is hot. Learn about the opportunities and risks below.

Visualization of DocJuris functionalities
The #1 choice for contract collaboration software
Trusted By

Ethical Implications of Using AI for Contract Review

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to disrupt all kinds of industries, making our lives easier by taking over repetitive, remedial tasks and freeing people up to focus their time and energy on tasks that require more thoughtful analysis.

However, AI is not going to be the be-all-end-all of every industry. In fact, some sectors should be particularly cautious about using AI.

For instance, in the legal field, there are a lot of ways that using AI can lead lawyers to do more work. Plus, there are many ethical implications of using AI in the courtroom and during the document review process.

Let’s look at the history of AI and consider the ethical implications it poses for legal professionals, especially when it comes to contract review.

A Brief History of AI in the Legal Profession

In many ways, the legal profession hasn’t changed all that much in the past 200 years. Back in the 19th century, lawyers did their work through manual processes that included legal work, contract review, and document analysis. They relied on their knowledge of the law to do their work.

Today’s lawyers still operate in the same way. First, they need to get a law degree and pass the bar exam before they can even start practicing law. Then, they choose their area of specialty, where they focus their energy and attention to make sure they are always up-to-date on the latest regulations and laws.

In short, lawyers need to fully understand the law and its many nuances if they want to get anything done.

Things didn’t really start to change until about the 1980s, when computers became more prominent and accessible to lawyers. However, at that time, humans were smarter than computers. They told computers what to do—not the other way around.

AI in Today's Digital World

Today, in 2021, computers have become way more intelligent than humans in a lot of ways. Through AI and machine learning (ML), computers can analyze massive amounts of data in a fraction of a second. As a result, tons of companies use AI’s data-driven predictions to make business decisions.

The word “predictions” is critical here. AI can give us predictions based on the data it analyzes. However, it does not necessarily give us accurate information.

For instance, many human resources (HR) firms use AI software to help them sort through piles of candidates. At the outset, this seems like a great way to save time. Who wants to manually sift through hundreds of applications, many from unqualified candidates, when you could simply submit them to AI and have a shortlist of candidates to choose from in a matter of seconds?

However, there are workarounds. Humans are smart, and they have figured out how to get past AI review. By using white text, candidates can sneak words into their resumes that will help them get past the AI software and into the hands of recruiters. For example, a simple mention of “Oxford” or “Cambridge” can turn a “no” into a highly qualified candidate in the mind of an AI.

This example highlights the primary limitation of AI and AI software—a complete lack of subjectivity and understanding of nuances.

In the HR example, by only filtering candidates based on strict, set criteria, AI might gloss over candidates from diverse backgrounds that may make them qualified. Perhaps a candidate didn’t go to a prestigious university (or attend college at all) but has significant experience working in the industry. By relying wholly on AI, the HR team can miss out on a lucrative candidate who could make a substantial impact on their organization.

How AI Can Negatively Impact Legal Proceedings

Just as HR teams often use their subjectivity to find the right candidates, lawyers often need to be creative to do their jobs effectively.

For example, when drafting an opening statement, lawyers need to consider all the variables—the social implications of the particular case, the witnesses, the judge’s predispositions, the jury, and so on. These are all external factors that a machine cannot understand or consider because it cannot feel emotion and lacks intuition. Once in the courtroom, AI cannot think on the fly based on the mood of the courtroom or the answers a witness gives.

Then, there’s the problem that AI is not correct 100 percent of the time. Consider the case of a Michigan man who was wrongly identified by AI and ended up getting arrested and thrown into jail. He was released quickly but still had to go through legal proceedings. The whole experience caused emotional trauma for him and his family, forcing us to reconsider just how effective AI software is in the world of criminal justice.

Challenges Using AI in Legal Document Review

Lawyers also have a certain amount of subjectivity when it comes to contract and document review. Although they rely on playbooks for reviewing contracts, they may need to make amendments or exceptions based on the particular contract and the other parties involved.

At the end of the day, a lawyer is responsible for their clients. Therefore, they need to ensure that everything they do is in their clients’ best interests.

AI, on the other hand, has no such responsibility. They simply do what they are told by whoever has trained them and whoever is feeding them data.

So, who does AI answer to? Should they answer to the vendor or the owner? If something goes wrong, who is at fault, the lawyer who gave AI inaccurate data or the vendor who created the AI in the first place?

Additionally, who does the text that AI creates belong to? Is it the property of the vendor? The lawyer? The client?

These are all critical questions that don’t yet have a definitive answer.

Automation is a Better Way to Redline Contracts

Here at DocJuris, we fully embrace the use of technology to make the process of redlining contracts more efficient. But, at the same time, we recognize the limitations posed by technology, especially AI, which can end up doing more harm than good.

That’s why our automated software is designed to work alongside your team instead of replacing it entirely. With DocJuris, your team can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to redline contracts without sacrificing quality. With integrated playbooks and a streamlined review process, everyone involved in contract negotiations can have up-to-date revisions at their fingertips.

See how DocJuris can empower your team by scheduling a demo